President Barack Obama said it would be a “moral” failure for his administration if Israel was weakened as a result of his policies.
“I would consider it a failure on my part, a fundamental failure of my presidency, if on my watch or as a consequence of work that I’ve done, Israel was rendered more vulnerable,” Obama said in an interview published Sunday with veteran New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman.
He said he would consider it “not just a strategic failure, I think that would be a moral failure,” adding that no disagreements between Israel and the United States could break the two countries’ bond.
Obama also said that accusations that his administration is not doing all it can to ensure Israel’s security have made recent months a “hard period” for him personally.
“It has been personally difficult for me to hear… expressions that somehow… this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest – and the suggestion that when we have very serious policy differences, that that’s not in the context of a deep and abiding friendship and concern and understanding of the threats that the Jewish people have faced historically and continue to face,” he said.
The president appeared to be dampening rising criticism – in the wake of last week’s controversial framework nuclear deal with Iran, and his comments after Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s election victory – to the effect that he doesn’t take Israeli security concerns seriously, and that personal animus toward Netanyahu has been driving some policies.
Obama emphasized that he was willing to make commitments to give Iran and others in the Middle East “a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them.” Two weeks after calling into question Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution, and suggesting the Israeli prime minister resorted to racism by referring to “droves” of Arab voters during the March 17 Israeli elections, Obama called Israel “a robust, rowdy democracy” in the interview.
“We share so much. We share blood, family,” said Obama. “And part of what has always made the US-Israeli relationship so special is that it has transcended party, and I think that has to be preserved. There has to be the ability for me to disagree with a policy on settlements, for example, without being viewed as… opposing Israel. There has to be a way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to disagree with me on policy without being viewed as anti-Democrat, and I think the right way to do it is to recognize that as many commonalities as we have, there are going to be strategic differences. And I think that it is important for each side to respect the debate that takes place in the other country and not try to work just with one side.”
Read more at The Times of Israel.